SANTA FE — When sisters Shawn Vallecillo and Shelley Hamdy opened their new Congeries Consignment store at 1368 Cerrillos Rd. in the fall, they set themselves a goal for the first year of getting 3,000 consignors.
A little more than a couple months later, they’re pushing 4,000.
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to sign a lease for 17,000 square feet of space and think you’re going to fill it, but Vallecillo and Hamdy — with the help of assorted family members — believe they’re going to do it.
Congeries is a Latin word that means a lot of varied things heaped together. The sisters rented the old White Swan Laundry building on Cerrillos Road. They haven’t filled it up yet. There’s still the back warehouse where movie companies have been storing props and costumes, and the back patio where they’ll show garden furniture in the spring, and a small loft where their mother, the fiber artist Monte McBride, plans to establish a workshop/studio/gallery space in the new year.
But the old offices and the huge main floor are full of furniture, art and household goods. The old break room is now styled as a kitchen complete with trays of glassware, pedestal tables and a Taos-style trastero stacked with a porcelain tableware set.
Former Santa Fe Mayor Sam Pick, who with his brother Henry owns the building, said renting to Vallecillo and Hamdy was a snap.
“The two ladies are just extraordinarily nice,” Pick said. “Shawn was working for a big consignment place in Taos, and I went and looked at it, and it looked more like a flea market. But here, they have done an extraordinary job; they seem to know the business as far as displaying the items.”
Vallecillo agreed. “I’ve worked consignment for a long time, in Taos and before that in Los Angeles,” she said. “Shelley and I were both moving to Santa Fe from Taos and we just felt it was the right place for this kind of business.”
“We knew we wanted to go big,” Shelley Hamdy interjected. “We wanted that ‘Wow!’ factor. And 22,000 people a day drive by here; some of them are bound to stop in.”
Two dollars will buy you a wine glass, a necklace from the rather large collection of hand-strung beads, a ring, maybe a Christmas decoration, or a plate. And if your Christmas cash is burning a hole in your pocket, the $20,000 item is a French, hand-forged, iron Art Deco gate from the 1930s, painted gold and black.
It’s in the antiques section, the baby of Shelley’s husband, Sal Hamdy. He’s even given this store-within-the-store a separate name: Antiques at the White Swan. Both Hamdys have been in the antiques business for many years, so it’s natural that those items end up in the White Swan section.
Meanwhile, the main floor awaits, so immense and so filled with goodies that even large items get a little lost. “We’ve had people spend four hours wandering around,” Vallecillo admitted.
It can take a little while to focus enough to realize that that’s one of the Painted Ponies (remember that art project 11 years ago?) standing proudly over in that corner: It’s artist Brett Chomer’s “Turbo Hay Burner 2001” that was created for the Albuquerque Sunport.
And there’s a fully unfurled hang glider suspended from the tall ceiling. With the 50-plus green-shaded hanging lamps that came with the building, the hang glider gets a little lost. Most people don’t see it, because they’re so busy studying the vignettes of New Mexican pine furniture, or mid-century modern and Victorian furniture, all complete with lamps and side tables and sofa cushions. As one customer noted, “You could furnish a house from this store.”
Vallecillo has created a “sports room” in one of the old offices, with golf clubs, snowboards, sleds, saddles, fishing gear, an $800 decoy duck.
Vallecillo said they handle all consignments on a straight 60/40 split — 60 percent for the consignor and 40 percent for the store. Their goal is to make Congeries a success in Santa Fe and then open a second store in Albuquerque.
“So far, we’re really encouraged,” Vallecillo said. “We’ve seen a lot of traffic this first quarter and we’re busy almost every day.”